The UK media landscape of the year 2000 was dominated not so much by individual agencies as by one particular agency group. The Aegis agencies' slam-dunk of a summer - in which they scooped not one, but effectively four pieces of European automotive business - provided the year's biggest talking point by far.
First, Carat and sister Aegis agency BBJ won the pounds 75 million Peugeot-Citroen (PSA) media account, then Carat scooped the pounds 360 million pan-European Renault media business. The fact that so many believed the conflict would have either PSA (bottom, right) or Renault flouncing back out to pitch by the summer's end testifies to the achievement in keeping both rival French manufacturers in one camp.
Some nifty Aegis footwork, helped along by Ray Kelly (middle, right), the chief executive of Carat Northern Europe, saw BBJ take on the entire PSA account, leaving Carat able to accommodate Renault. Add to that Carat's triumph in the pounds 100 million European BMW pitch and it seems everything on four wheels was heading Aegis' way this year. The coups did more than provide a huge billings fillip. They left the industry debating whether the age-old conflict conventions might finally receive a challenge worthy of the name.
However, of the Aegis line-up, there was one agency whose role in the group's success was secured through a blistering 12-month performance.
BBJ had to come very far, very fast if it was to erase the effects of the loss of pounds 80 million in Volkswagen business in 1999. The agency began 2000 with its independence from Carat in question, morale at a low, and a new managing director, Trista Grant (bottom, left), replacing Jerry Buhlmann, who had just become the final founding director to quit BBJ.
Grant and BBJ opted not to dwell on the agency's positioning, mission or structure. They chose one course of action - win business and win it quickly. As a result, BBJ produced a 12-month turnaround worthy of the England cricket team. BBJ pitched and won business in every month of the year with the exception of March. Campaign's new-business league shows BBJ pulling in a stunning pounds 116.60 million against the loss of only Bass Leisure Retail.
A glowing 92 per cent pitch conversion rate saw it grab pounds 28 million of Bertelsmann work (top, left), a further pounds 19 million from Vodafone and the pounds 8 million EasyJet business among others - and that's leaving aside the agency's most high-profile successes.
PSA was the boost the agency needed. The business had originally been jointly won with Carat, and top-level international negotiations were needed before PSA agreed to centralise into BBJ. But for an agency whose value to the group had been questioned only months before, playing point man in media's greatest car-jacking was a huge step up.
But BBJ wasn't satisfied with just playing a team game in 2000. The agency made expert use of Grant's Coca-Cola (middle, left) connections to grab Coke GB's pounds 7 million non-TV buying account from Universal McCann. And, in a timely reminder of the agency's longstanding reputation for strategy, it picked up planning across the entire UK Coke account.
This meant the expected exodus of demoralised personnel never materialised.
BBJ lost just one director, with Jed Glanvill's move to MindShare. And looking forward, BBJ should have high hopes of attracting new talent on the back of its Media Agency of the Year performance.
MindShare was a very close runner-up to BBJ. The agency had a storming year on the new-business front, and perhaps one of the few things that held it back from being crowned Media Agency of the Year were doubts over the efficacy of its management line-up. Mandy Pooler, its chief executive, and Simon Rees, its managing director, have done sterling work in building the agency's profile and bringing it closer to the 'house of media' proposition.
But in terms of management back-up, there aren't any particularly strong leading lights.
However, the agency scooped Boots' pounds 60 million account from OMD UK, took over the strategic pounds 12.8 million Nike account, and added Volvo and Land Rover to its Ford portfolio, helping to stoke a substantial clutch of new-business wins. There is no doubt that rival agencies are eyeing MindShare's growing portfolio of media offerings - which includes a strong econometric unit and an expanding digital capability - with increasing concern, and in any pitch it is seen as a formidable contender.
MediaCom TMB, which was awarded Media Agency of the Year last year, followed up with an incredibly strong performance in 2000 - a great achievement given the high base it started from. The agency got on to COI Communications' coveted media roster with its appointment to handle the pounds 36 million press buying account, and finished off the year with the pounds 85 million consolidated Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest, Direct Line and Lombard Direct account.
An initiative worthy of mention is MediaCom's partnering with COI to pioneer a media buying service, iMediabrief, where advertisers can put a brief out to media owners and then negotiate suitable deals which fulfil the campaign brief. This reversed the existing system where media owners put their inventory up on bulletin boards. Overall, MediaCom is seen as a strong, efficient organisation that has long left the shrouds of its two former grey media agencies behind it and become a major player on the media agency platform.
Recent winners: MediaCom TMB (1999); New PHD (1998); Michaelides & Bednash (1997); TMD Carat (1996).